Connections Between Discrimination and Colon Cancer

By Dr. Mujahidun Sumchai,  JD, PhD, M.ED The “International Journal of Behavioral Medicine” has found that the stress caused by discrimination “may take a heavy toll on the body.”  But the report did not make any connections to one’s spiritual health as an important human health factor subject to the health causalities of the race-class myth and reality. This may be the first study “to find a possible physiological explanation for health disparities” due to race- class-myth and reality disparities. The study’s author, Sarah Szanton, PhD, said psychological stressors trigger oxidative stress, a precursor to many illnesses like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and aging. A human being’s healthy body must maintain a proper balance between “free radicals which damage cells, and antioxidants, which the body needs to repair itself from various insults and injuries,” according to Dr. Szanton. She evaluated 629 African American and European American adults who were part of a U.S. National Institute on Aging study. Their ages were between 30-64 years with different revenue levels. “Participants had been asked about racial discrimination, and the researchers paired their answers with the results of blood tests that measured degradation of red blood cells, an indicator of oxidative stress,” according to Dr. Szanton, The study found that more African Americans “reported more racial discrimination than European Americans, and African Americans who experienced more racial discrimination than their peers had more oxidative stress. Among European Americans, discrimination was not tied to oxidative stress.” This preliminary study only looked at overt discrimination. Additional research is needed to confirm the results. Clinicians also need more information about day-to-day stressors their patients face in their treatment decisions. The “Journal of the National Cancer Institute” has published a reflection on the results of a study about colon cancer that found a 57 percent African American survival rate compared to 68 percent for European American. What is important about this study is the patients allegedly received the same post surgery adjuvant colon cancer therapy after surgery. Given the stress study by Dr. Szanton, what is the connection between race and class myths and reality stress discrimination and colon cancer survival rates? There was an earlier study in Chicago that found similar health disparities that were race-myth and reality based. The danger in these studies is any suggestion that there is some genetic race-myth difference that is the cause of these results. Send comments to
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